Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 48, Dated December 04, 2010
Why is this man still in prison?
Is the incarceration of Abdul Nasar Madani a devious project of the Karnataka Police? asks SHAHINA KK
Loopholes Hostile witnesses have weakened the case against Madani
PHOTO: SB SATISH
WHENI met him, he looked very tired. The skin under his eyes had turned black,” says PM Subair Paduppu, the Kasargod district president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). “I asked him about it. Madani told me that they never put out the light in his room. Day and night, cameras and a bright light are on because he is monitored 24x7. No privacy even in the toilet.”
PDP Chairman Abdul Nasar Madani is no stranger to jails — he was incarcerated as an undertrial in the 1998 Coimbatore blast case for 10 years before being exonerated and set free on 1 August 2007. Three months ago, Madani was again arrested as an accused in the infamous 2008 Bengaluru blast case.
His bail application has been dismissed by a fast-track sessions court on 13 September citing the “nature and gravity of the offence as the primary consideration”. Madani has been charged by the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) for conspiracy in the Bengaluru blasts along with other accused including Tadiyantavida Naseer, the suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba operative.
According to the police, the conspiracy was hatched at Lakkeri estate in Kodagu, Karnataka, soon after Madani’s release from Coimbatore jail. He was listed as the 31st accused in an additional chargesheet after confessions by Naseer, linking him to the Bengaluru blasts.
‘I was forced to give testimony against Madani under torture,’ says witness Rafeeq
The missing links in the Karnataka Police story prompted TEHELKA to investigate the veracity of the charge that Madani had attended a meeting in Kodagu along with Naseer to hatch the conspiracy. On 25 July 2008, eight low-intensity explosions had rocked Bengaluru, killing a woman and injuring 15 others. According to the police, the conspiracy was hatched at two meetings two years ago — one at Madani’s rented house in Kochi and the other at Lakkeri estate.
An exposé by TEHELKA (28 August) had revealed that the testimony of one of the witnesses in the case was fabricated by the investigating agency. Jose Verghese, the owner of Madani’s rented house in Kochi, had filed a private complaint against Karnataka Police at the principal sessions court, Ernakulam, alleging that the testimony was fabricated.
Then Madani’s brother Jamal Mohammed also filed a complaint against the SIT in the court of the judicial magistrate, Sasthamkotta, Kollam district, saying he never testified. Mohammed, who was the custodian of the religious educational institution run by Madani in Anwarsseri, Kerala, is quoted in the chargesheet as saying that he had witnessed two of the blast accused, Ayub and slain Rahim, being given shelter in Anwarsseri after the blast on Madani’s instructions.
K K Yogananda, one of the witnesses of the Bengaluru blast case talking to Tehelka
Madani’s bail application was dismissed by the Bengaluru court citing prima facie evidence of a meeting with Naseer at Lakkeri. The testimonies of two witnesses, G Prabhakar and KB Rafeeq, were quoted in the judgement dismissing the bail plea. In the additional chargesheet submitted on 10 June, three witnesses, KK Yoganand, Prabhakar and Rafeeq, had testified the same.
Our journey to Kodagu revealed that Yoganand, a BJP worker, does not even know that he is a witness in the Madani case. He claimed he is a witness in the Naseer case. His testimony in the chargesheet reads, “I have seen strangers visit the estate. Among them was a man wearing a cap. I had seen him only on television. I realised that the man was Madani.”
NONE OF the villagers of Kumbur, Hosathotta and Igoor, the places around Lakkeri estate, could corroborate the stories of conspiracy meetings and training camps. Even local BJP and RSS workers said they had not seen Madani in the area. Igoor panchayat vice-president Vijayan says he doubts Madani visited the place at all. “There is a rumour, that’s all. I have not seen him,” he says.
The testimony of Rafeeq, another witness in the case, is even more flimsy. He had worked in Lakkeri estate as a labourer for a while. In 2008, he was arrested by the SIT and was kept in custody for 15 days. “I was subjected to brutal torture,” he says. “They even gave me electric shocks. I was forced to give testimony against Madani. They threatened to book me in terrorism cases and to put me behind bars forever along with Naseer if I didn’t sign the witness statement. I had no option, I did it. Since then I have been burning with guilt. I know that an innocent man is in prison because of me.”
Madani may or may not be innocent, but why is he being denied bail, even as police witnesses are repudiating their testimony one by one? He has already spent 10 years in jail as an undertrial.
‘THE POLICE ASKED IF I WAS A TERRORIST’
ON THE morning of 16 November, I reached Igoor in Karnataka’s Hassan district, along with two translators and met KK Yoganand, one of the witnesses in the 2008 Bengaluru blasts case and a few BJP workers, including the vice-president of the panchayat. They all disclosed that, contrary to the police chargesheet, they had not seen Abdul Nasar Madani in the area.
While on our way from Hosathotta to a secret location where we had planned to meet Rafeeq, another witness, we were stopped by the police. The Circle Inspector of Hosathotta police station, despite being told that we were from the media, warned us that we are not allowed “to do such things here”.
A police vehicle tailed us for a while en route to Madikeri to ensure that we had left. After an hour, we changed vehicles and kept our appointment with Rafeeq.
On our way back, at 9.30 pm, I received a call from the Circle Inspector. The question was simple: “Are you a terrorist?” I did not know whether to laugh or cry. He then explained that the villagers were scared and suspected that we were terrorists. He wanted to confirm my identity by talking to my editor.
The next day, three Kannada newspapers — Sakthi, Prajavani and Kannada Prabha— carried a story about a “suspicious” visit by a “group of Muslims” to the place. The newspapers said that police are not sure about the identity of the woman, though she had showed a TEHELKA identity card!
I received another call from the same officer a couple of days later. This time, he was convinced of my credentials but wanted to know the details of the persons who had accompanied me.
Now I know how a terrorist is ‘made’. If this is how police build a case against a ‘terrorist’, easily raising a false alarm, then one has to worry about how the dominant discourse of terrorism works against a country and its people.